John J. Hight.

History of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 online

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tor a short time, but before we were through the business
part of the citv, men began to fall out bv the dozens and
hunt tor a shade. They were utterlv exhausted. Some of
them came a few hours later to the Regiment, when W went
into bivouac a couple of miles out of town, but many others
were turned into the hospital, and not a few never were with
the Regiment again.

We went into camp in a beautiful grove just outside of
town and the wearv soldiers were soon stretching themselves
upon the grass enio\'ing a much needed rest. We prepared
dinner and it was the general belief that the Regiment
was to remain in camp here, for awhile at least. All were
delighted at the prospect of camping in such a pleasant
place. Here was a rich agricultural country with ffne roads,
ffne springs of water, with a fine town the center of it all.
Who would not be delighted to live in such a locality? It
was not strange that the 58th Regiment should rejoice in a
chance to rest in such a place after the several months of
almost continuous marching. We also found much satis-
faction in the prospect of remaining here, from the fact that
the 42d Indiana was stationed at Huntsville. As two
Companies of this Regiment had been raised in Gibson
count V, our boys found many old acquaintances and friends
with whom they expected to exchange visits, and have a
real good time.

But, alas, our pleasant anticipations were of short dura-
tion. Soon after going into bivouac the orders came to be


ready to march at 4 o'clock the same afternoon. Our orders
for a sudden departure from here was on account of news
of Forrest's raid in Tennessee. He had made an attack on
a force of ovir men at Murfreesboro, under General Critten-
der, capturing the entire force. Forrest was expected to
continue depredations in that section and the advance troops
of General Buell's army were ordered to move on to
Shelbyville with all possible speed. So it was that our
stop at Huntsville was cut short. At five o'clock in the
afternoon of the same dav of our arrival, we were
moving out on the turnpike towards Shelbvville. We
marched until 1 1 o'clock that night before stopping to camp.
Next morning we resumed our march at an earh- hour.
We crossed the state line during the day and reached Fav-
ettsville, Lincoln county, Tennessee, that night. There
was a pretty strong Union sentiment in this count\' and as
our Regiment was the first Union soldiers that had passed
through that section, we were an object of much interest to
these loval people. They met us with every demonstration
of joy. But there was also a large secession element here
that looked upon us with hatred and bitterness. There
was a very bitter feeling in this part of Tennessee between
the citizens. In many sections there was open war. Guer-
rilla fighting was common. As we passed through tliere
was no organized rebel armv near us, but the country was
full of rebel guerrillas and bush-wliackers, and woe to the
straggler who fell into tlieir hands. Some of our
Regiment who had relatives and friends in tliis section
and who took occasion to visit them during our march
through, could a tale unfold as to tlie danger of such a ven-

In the afternoon of the fourth day after leaving Huntsville
we arrived at Shelbyville. This was the most loyal town
we had struck since leaving Indiana. As we entered the
town we were enthusiastically cheered by the citizens of all
ages and sexes who lined the streets. From the court house
there floated the stars and stripes, and from many of the


houses the same emblem of Unionism and loyahy, was dis-
pla3^ed. A large number of young men of this place
enlisted in the Union army, and many gave their lives in
the defense of the flag of their country-.

Our stop here was not long. A large number of the
Regiment had dropped out on the way hither and we waited
a day or. two for them to catch up. Then we went on to
Decherd, a little station on the Nashville &, Chattanooira
railroad, arriving there about the 23d of July. Here we
went into camp and made preparations to stav awhile, and
we actually did stay for three weeks. The greater part of
General Wood's division was concentrated about Decherd.
Our purpose, so far as we could understand it, was^to guard
the railroad and to watch the movements of the rebels who
were now^ concentrated at Chattanooga. But it was not the
business of the common soldier to bother about plans and
purposes. That was the concern of the officer in command.
Tlie rank and tile might discuss these matters, and form
tlieories, and evolve military movements, developing strategy
of the highest order, but they did not allow such discussion
and such mental exercise to interfere in any way with their
ease and enjoyment — not after they had the experience of
real soldiers. The 58th had such experience by this time.
We did not care what the General was planning to do or
what would be our next move. Our chief concern was to
get plenty to eat and secure a cool comfortable place to
sleep. There were very strict orders against foraging, but
the boys did not care for the orders. If they could evade
the pickets and escape the patrol that was frequently sent
out to gather up the foragers, they would have the best the
land afforded. And the crop of potatoes, corn, chickens,
etc., was prett}' good around Decherd about this time, as
many of the 58th boys can testify. In the event that a for-
ager should fall into the hands of a too zealous squad of the
patrol, or if the picket guard should be obstinate and refuse
to "look the other way," just when the forager was trying
to sneak into camp with his load, — should he be captured


and be marched in "disgrace" to the General's headquarters,
he was sure to receive a very severe reprimand. Sometimes
he was sentenced to "carry a rail," sometimes he was
called to undergo some more severe punishment, but more
often he was sent to his Colonel or his Captain, who would
be instructed to inflict such punishment as the crime might
deserve. Inmost cases this mode of punishment . was the
severest of all to the unfortunate foracfer. He would have
to "divide" with the Colonel, or the Captain, one or both,
too often both. Then he would be sent to liis mess to feast
on what was left, promising, meanwhile, that he wouW
never be guilty of foraging again, or, if he should ever in-
dulge in such practice, that he would be more careful about
being caught. Thus the time passed. We had an abund-
ance of garden vegetables, roasting ears, peaches and all
kinds of fruit. The country was well supplied with these
products, but it was rather barren in that respect after our
three weeks' stay. It must not be understood here that the
soldiers confiscated all this without compensating the own-
ers. As a rule the produce was bought and paid for. Tlie
soldier who had money would alwavs exchange it for some-
thing to eat, and he was not alwavs particular about the

During our stay here a detail was made from tlie Regi-
ment to go to Indiana on a recruiting service. Of this
detail Major J. T. Embree, and Captain Joseph Moore, of
Company B, were a part. It was while we were in this
camp that Hugh Shaw, of Company I, became involved in
a quarrel with Major Foster, of the 3d Ohio cavalrv, and
knocked him down. Shaw was afterward court martialed
and sentenced to be shot, but owing to some defect in the
proceedings the order was never executed.

Dr. W. W. Blair, our Regimental Surgeon, was appointed
Medical Director of Wood's Division, August Qth, while we
were at Camp Decherd. He entered upon his duties at
General Wood's headquarters and his place in the Regiment
was filled bv Dr. J. R. Adams. Dr. Samuel E. Holtzman,



of Bloomington, Indiana, who came to the Regiment in
April, as an additional assistant Surgeon, by order of Gov-
ernor Morton, had remained as such until this time. In the
transfer of Dr. Blair to Division headquarters, Dr. Holtzman
became regular assistant Surgeon.

August 14th we left our pleasant camp at Decherd and
moved in the direction of Manchester. We stopped near
this town for a dav or two then moved on toward McMinn-
ville, camping at a point on the railroad about twelve miles

trom that place. Our
Regiment was assigned
the duty of repairing the
railroad from Tullahoma
to McMinnville. Com-
pany B was detached on
special duty to guard a
bridge about four miles
from the Regimental
camp. The Company re-
mained here about two
weeks and were then re-
lieved by Company F,
54th Ohio. Company B
was ordered to report to
their Regiment, which was
then under orders to join
the Brigade, stationed six
miles from McMinnville. Before arriving, however, the
Brigade had moved, the entire Division being under march-
ing orders and on the road across the Cumberland mountains
toward Chattanooga. So the 58th only halted at the recent
camping grounds of the Brigade long enough to draw rations
and eat dinner. Then we moved on after our command.


* Started out as Assistant Surgeon and discharged the duties of Regi-
mental Surgeon after the appointment of Dr. Blair as Medical Director.
Was promoted to Surgeon of the 15th Indiana in August, 1863, and continued
as such during the remainder of his army service. Since the war he has heen
practicing his profession in Petersburg, Incl., where he still resides.


We reached their camping place at the foot of the mountains
about sundown and rested for the night, feasting ourselves
on the excellent potatoes, roasting ears, etc., which were
plentiful hereabout.

Early next morning we began climbing the mountain, the
men pulling the wagons and artillery up the steep places in
the winding road by long ropes attached to the vehicles.
It required all the strength of men and mules to draw the
artillery and wagons up the mountain, but it was linallv
accomplished. About ii o'clock we were on the summit
and halted here for two or three hours, then moved on to
within two miles of Altamont. General Wood sent a squad
of cavalry ahead and the\' came back reporting water and
forage scarce. On the strength of this intbrmation we were
ordered to countermarch to the place from whence we
started in the morning. This was a trying ordeal tor the
boys who had nearly exhausted themselves in the arduous
work of the morning. They were not only tired but were
half famished with thirst ; and no water nearer than the foot
of the mountain, seven miles down the roughest road ovt'r
which we had ever traveled. But such inconveniences and
discouragements are part of a soldier's life and it is the part
of a soldier to endure them with as much complacencv as the
circumstances will admit. So we turned about and started
for the foot of the mountain. Sometime after dark we
reached our camping place of the night before and tbund
water to quench our thirst and something to satist\' our hun-
ger. Then we found a convenient spot of ground tor a bed
and were soon in a condition of forgetfulness of tlie jiast
and of indifference as to the present.

Next morning we resumed our march and stopped again
at the former Brigade camping ground, six miles from
McMinnville. We cleaned oft' a nice place for camping,
and, after the usual manner, moved next day. Stopped
within two miles of McMinnville where we remained for
some time. Our condition now seemed to be one of sus-
pense and uncertainty. There appeared to be a great deal


of uncertainty on the part ot' our Commanders as to whether
Bragg's army was contemplating an advance on our position
at McMinnville, or whether they were going to some other
place. It was pretty evident to those in a position to know
that the rebel army was unusually active and that some
important move was contemplated. Forrest's cavalry was
ver}' much in evidence in our vicinitv. On the 30th he
made an attack on a stockade erected and defended by the
54th Ohio Company, that had taken the place of Company
B, of the 58th, a few days before. Forrest's forces were
repulsed with considerable loss. The news of this affair
was brought to our camp by a courier, who was hatless,
coatless and very much demoralized. He insisted that the
rebels were coming in great force. Of course this created
considerable excitement in camp. The "long roll" was
sounded and our troops were soon in line ready for action.
But they did not come. In fact, Forrest was just now try-
ing to avoid any large body of troops, as he was in some-
thing of a close place and was seeking a way to get out of
it. It was about two o'clock p. m. of that same day that
General Wood received word that Forrest's command was
crossing the railroad about two miles from our camp, and
was making his way toward Woodbury. The information
was that his forces expected to cross the Murfreesboro road at
a poiht eight miles to our rear. Immediateh^ General Wood
ordered three Regiments of our Brigade, viz : — the 26th
Ohio, 58th Indiana, 17th Indiana, and the 8th Indiana Bat-
tery, all under the command of Colonel Fyffe, — to start on
the "double quick," to intercept the rebels at the point indi-
cated. After a hot march we came upon the enemy about
dark, just as he was turning into the road upon which our Bri-
gade was marching, when our skirmishers opened tire.
The battery took position and opened up, while the whole
Brigade in line of battle advanced. But Forrest's command
did not stay to see the fight. They were taken by surprise
and fled in great confusion, leaving on the field arms, horses,
mules, equipments, and the only wagon they had. They


took to the woods, scattering in even^ direction, seeming!}^
every man for himself. Of course it was useless for us to
pursue them. It was now after dark and they were mounted,
and the}' could easily keep out of the way of our soldiers on
foot. So we returned to camp.

Next morning the 58th Regiment was ordered to return
to the scene of the last night's skirmish on a reconnoiter-
ing tour. We found a great many relics of the stampede
ol the night before in the shape of guns, and accouterments,
articles of clothing, etc., but nothing of much value.
It was learned that several of Forrest's men were wounded
in the skirmish but they had all been taken away. As it
appeared to us now our hast}^ return to camp last night was
a blunder. In the lirst place the march was an unnecessary
hardship on the men, and in the second place we missed an
opportunity to secure the fruits of our bloodless victory.
Many of the stampeded rebels, as it was learned, were hid-
ing in the woods in the near vicinity during the night, ex-
pecting to be captured in the morning. What a surprise
it must have been to them that the "Yankees" were not about
next morning. This being the case, there was nothing for
the lingering "Johnnies" to do but to deliberately take up
their journe^^ toward their command. It was about noon of
that day when the 58th arrived and it was expecting too
much of the discomfitted "Johnnies" to wait on us until that
hour — especially when there was some uncertainty about our
coming. We gathered what booty there was to be found
and returned to camp in the evening.


Retreat from McjMinnville to Louisville — Through


Fight at Mumfordsville — Rapid Marching after
Bragg — Arrival at Louisville — Tired, Ragged,
Dusty and Discouraged.

WHILE it may not have appeared to the common soldier
that our movements for the past six months have
been controlled by anything that Bragg has been doing, or
attempting to do, yet it will soon appear plain enough to
any one, that his movements have a very distinct controlling
influence on our own. One of the things discovered by our
trip to the top of the mountains was that Bragg' s whole
army was on the move.*

It has been noted that Bragg had concentrated the arm}-
under his command at Chattanooga. During the summer

* The following dispatch to General Buell from General Thomas, who
was in command of the Union forces at McMinnville, throws soine light on
that mountain march and the reason for turning back:


Altamont, Tenn., August 25th, 5 p. m. f
A/a/or- Genera/ Buclh Decherd:

The enemy no nearer than Dunlap. It is reported there is one Brigade
there, and one at Pikeville. This I learn here, and which confirms the
report of Major Loughlin, First Ohio Cavalry.

Water scarce — only one spring here: and not forage enough in the
neighborhood to last for one day. The road up the mountain is almost
impassable. General W'ood has been from six o'clock till now, and has not
succeeded in getting his artillery up the road. I deem it next to impossible
to march a large army across the mountains by Altamont, on account of
scarcity of water and forage, and the extreme difficulty of passing over the
road. I will therefore return to McMinnville and await further orders. As
I mentioned in one of my dispatches. I regard McMinnville as the most
important for occupation of anv. The occupation of McMinn\'ille, Sparta,
and Murfreesboro will, in my opinion, secure the Nashville and Chattanooga
railroad. I have sent out Smith to put in operation a system of couriers, by
which, I believe, we can get reliable information.

Very respectfully,


Major- General U. S. V.


he does not seem to have been very active, at least his activ-
ities have not been troublesome to our army, as we were
several miles away, with high mountains and a broad river
between us. It was about the 22d of August when Buell
tirst learned definite!}' that the rebel chietlain was crossing
the Tennessee river, but there was some doubt, it seems, as
to what his intentions were. It was now pretty evident
from all the circumstances that he wanted to get into Ken-
tucky, but there was uncertainty as to what route he would
take. This uncertainty remained until August 27th, when
General Thomas captured a dispatch to the rebel General,
Van Dorn,* which revealed Bragg' s whole plans. But the
information came too late to enable Buell to checkmate the
move. Bragg had simply outwitted Buell and had the start
of our army. On the 30th of August, Buell gave orders for
the army to concentrate at Murfreesboro with all possible
dispatch. This was the beginning of the great race to

It was the 3d of September that General Wood's division
started on that famous retreat. This was a move of which
very little can be said to the credit of our military leaders.
It was a forced march from beginning to finish. The
weather was hot, the roads were dusty and for the greater
part of the distance there was a great scarcity of water.


Chattanooga, Tenn., August 27th, 1862. \"
Major-dcneriil Earl Van Dorn, Commandins^ District of the Mississippi,
Jack-son , Miss.
General: We move from here immediately, later hv some davs than
expected; but in time, we hope, tor a suc-cessful campaign. Buell has cer-
tainly fallen back from the Memphis and Charleston railroad, and will
probabl>- not make a stand this side of Nashville, if there. He is now forti-
fying that place.

General E. K. Smith, reinforced by two Brigades from this army has
turned Cumberland Gap. and is now marching on Lexington, Kentuck^■.
General Morgan (Yankee) is thus cut oft' from all supplies. General
Humphrey Marshall is to enter Eastern Kentucky from Western Virginia.
W^e shall thus have Buell pretty well disposed of.

Shennan and Rosecrans we leave to vou and Price, satisfied voii can
dispose of them, and we confidently hope to meet you upon the Ohio.
Respectfullv, vour obedient servant.

M. M. KiMMKi.. General Comma7iding.


Our destination, as we thought, was Murfreesboro. And so
it was, but we did not stop there. We found on reaching
that place that other troops were ahead of us. A great
army was passing through here in hurried haste, all headed
in the direction of Nashville, and all the Government stores
in Murtreesboro were being sent to that place. What did it
mean ? Some of the more sanguine thought it meant that
the war was over and we were going home. But there were
not many who shared in this belief. It was too plainly evi-
dent that there was something serious involved in our hur-
ried movement to the rear.

Tired, dusty and foot-sore we arrived at Nashville, finding
the army increasing in numbers as we moved toward that
place. Camping here for one night we resumed our march
toward Gallatin. This was oft' the line of march on which
the main army was passing, and the roads were less block-
aded and our progress less interrupted. Between Gallatin
and Bowling Green the 58th marched a day and night,
covering a distance of over forty miles. On arrival at
Bowling Green we went into camp for a few days, enjoying
the first rest that we had had since leaving McMinnville.

By this time we knew something more definitely as to the
reason of our retrograde movement. We all realized now
that there was a hurried race between Buell and Bragg for
the Ohio river, with the chances in favor of Bragg winning.
The two armies were moving part of the time on parallel
roads, often only a few miles apart. While we were resting
at Bowling Green, Bragg's army gained the advance and
swuno- his forces airainst Mumfordsville, where there was a
Brigade or more of Union troops, under the temporary com-
mand of Colonel J. T. Wilder. After a sharp fight the
Union troops were forced to surrender. About 4,000 men
and 4,000 small arms, and a large amount of army stores,
was our loss here. This occurred on the 17th of September.
Buell's advance did not reach the place until the 21st. In
the meantime all our captured prisoners had been paroled by
Bragg. The main part of Bragg's army had swung oft'


to the right from the direct road to Louisville. A strong
force had been left at Mumfordsville, however, to resist our
advance. Our Brigade was in the advance of BuelFs army
as we approached Mumfordsville. Being apprised of the
rebel force at that place we moved forward with extreme
caution. When within about four miles of the place we en-
countered the rebel cavalry. Deploying into line of battle,
our Brigade moved on through helds and woods, driving
the rebels back. Thev did not offer much resistance until
the}^ reached the main force which was posted across the
river from Mumfordsville. Here they showed such a deter-
mination to resist our further progress that preparation was
made to give them the best we had in the wav of tight.
Two Companies of the 58th Indiana were sent forward as
skirmishers, with the entire Regiment as reserve. Behind
this were the other Regiments of the Brigade in line of
battle, supporting the 8th Indiana Battery posted on a higii
knoll commanding the crossing at the river. Detachments
of the 3d Ohio cavalr}^ were on either flank. It was not
long until the skirmishers had opened up communication
with the rebels across the river, and there was quite a lively
interchange of shots for a while. Several times the rebels
attempted to drive back our skirmishers but were not suc-
cessful. We held our ground while the batteries from both
sides thundered, and the solid shot and exploding shells tore
up the ground and made our situation anything but pleasant.
Tiring of this after a time, we made a charge across the
river, which was shallow enough at that time to wade, and
drove the rebels from their position. We found that the
force was not strong, only a few cavalry left behind to
impede our progress while Bragg' s main army could gain
time. Although no serious casualt}^ resulted from this
engagement it served to show the soldierly qualities of the
men of our Regiment and their courage under fire. Every
man was in his place ready for duty and did his duty

Among those who were captured and paroled at Mum-


fordsville were a number of recruits and returning convales-
cents of the 17th Indiana. They had got thus far on their
way with Colonel Wilder when Bragg' s advance struck the
place and gobbled them up.

Next morning after our little brush with the rebels we
resumed our march toward Louisville. Bragg was now in

Online LibraryJohn J. HightHistory of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 → online text (page 7 of 47)